Students lose space balloon

Students at a grammar school in the West Midlands recently sent a balloon to the edge of space – only to have it go missing somewhere in Berkshire.

Sixth-form pupils at Queen Mary’s Grammar School sent a camera, aptly named ‘Horizon’, into the upper atmosphere using a giant specialised helium balloon.

Horizon managed to reach a height of more than 20 miles above the earth. As planned, it came back down to earth later that same afternoon, landing somewhere near Basingstoke.

One of the teachers at the school, Adam Coghlan, explained how when the team of students set out to collect the device, one of its trackers failed. Its last known location, according to the tracker signal, was around Tilehurst. Coghlan said:

“This project represents nearly a year of work for us and contains photos taken of the Earth from an altitude of 34km. We’d really like to get the photography back.”

Similar scientific projects are common all over the world. Helium balloons present one of the most reliable methods for taking snapshots of the earth from the upper atmosphere. However, many people choose commercial hot air balloon rides to get a first-hand glimpse of the land from a high altitude.

The Queen Mary’s Horizon camera was contained in a 30cm polystyrene box sealed with silver and blue tape. It drifted to the ground beneath an orange and green luminous parachute measuring four feet in diameter. Coghlan said the parachute bears the schools details and appealed for anyone who discovers the project to either get in touch with Queen Mary’s school or hand it over to local police.

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